THE 9th International Sea Lice Conference is currently underway in Bergen and was addressed by Norwegian State Secretary Kristine Gramstad, who warned that lice levels were still a barrier to the growth of the industry, although she feels that they can develop the tools to deal with the problem.
Gramstad stressed that: “For me the development of the salmon farming industry represents one of Norway’s greatest success stories. It is the Government’s objective that the Norwegian aquaculture industry should continue to grow. However, further growth can only take place within the limits of environmental sustainability. This is why we stopped the increase in production capacity in 2010 and this is why the sea lice situation will be a central factor when we evaluate the possibility for growth this year. The driving force for achieving environmental sustainability should be the industry itself, but for me it means strong commitments to governance, research and development.
“The regulation of sea lice in Norwegian fish farms has become significantly stricter over the recent years. The numbers of lice per farmed fish is being kept rather low and do not represent a health or welfare problem for farmed fish. However, given the amount of farmed fish in Norwegian fjords and thereby the high number of hosts for sea lice, the lice population in Norwegian fish farms could in some areas represent a potential threat for wild salmonids.
“The regulations for sea lice are currently under revision and proposal for new and stricter rules went on a three months public consultation in March. It is proposed to require more coordination between fish farmers in their sea lice control. It is also proposed a shift from a threshold limit for lice per fish to a maximum limit. The maximum limit will ensure a more proactive sea lice control. In addition stricter regulations for sensitivity tests for drugs used in sea lice control are proposed.
“As sea lice now is considered mainly a problem for the wild salmonids our strategy is to shift the focus from considering the sea lice limit in fish farms only, but also taking the sea lice infestations on wild salmonids into account when deciding upon measures in aquaculture. As there is controversy surrounding the impact of sea lice form farmed fish on wild stocks we are now putting great effort into establishing first generation indicators and threshold values for the effect of lice in fish farms on wild salmonids. These will be based on today’s knowledge and then be evaluated and adjusted as new knowledge is available.
“The Norwegian government is aware of the importance of science. Therefore we focus on strengthening our research communities and knowledge centres. From 2009 to 2010 The Ministry of Fisheries and Costal Affairs doubled its contribution to sea lice research. The high contribution has continued in 2011 and 2012. In 2011 the Norwegian Research Council, Institute of Marine Research and the Norwegian Veterinary Institute spent 40 million NOK on sea lice research. This equals 6.5 million US dollars. In addition the industry’s own Research Fund allocated almost 20 million NOK on sea lice research. In addition, there are the investments in R&D (research and development) by individual companies.”